Wednesday marked a historic day in Washington D.C.
A joint session of the 117th Congress was inside the U.S. Capitol debating whether or not to certify the results of the Electoral College votes in the 2020 Presidential election, while a large contingency of President Donald Trump’s supporters gathered outside to protest. The crowd, believing unsubstantiated and debunked claims of widespread voter fraud touted by the President, eventually breached the gates of the Capitol. They made it onto the steps of Capitol Hill, and then into the building itself.
Videos showed members of Congress taking shelter under their desks, before they were ushered to safer locations while the mob made its way to the Senate floor and even the offices of Congressional leaders. One woman was shot by Capitol police, and eventually died, amidst the chaos. Capitol police were photographed in an armed standoff with protesters inside the Senate chamber.
Minnesota’s Congressional leaders were among the 535 members along with Vice President Mike Pence and countless aides and staff members inside the building as the tense situation unfolded. They took to Twitter to keep constituents aware of what was happening, and give their thoughts until Congress was able to reconvene later in the evening.
It was the first time the U.S. Capitol building was breached since 1814, when British troops attempted to burn it down during the War of 1812.
“Please pray for our very brave Capitol police and our great nation,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican from Minnesota’s 8th District, which includes Morrison County. “This is the People’s House, but we as a nation MUST respect law and order.”
Minnesota’s senior Senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar had just given a speech on the floor defending the results of the election in Arizona — to which Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had objected — when the Capitol went into lockdown shortly after 1 p.m. central time.
A short time later on social media, she vowed that, despite the unprecedented interruption to what is normally a process viewed as a formality, Congress would finish its job of certifying the election.
“Thanks to all who are putting themselves on the line to protect our democracy,” Klobuchar tweeted just after 3 p.m. “I’m committed to finishing the job we started today, something I just said to the senators. Everyone agrees. We’ll do that as soon as it is safe. Anarchy will not prevail. Democracy will.”
Minnesota District 3 Rep. Dean Phillips, a Democrat, gave updates on what was happening inside the Capitol as the situation unfolded.
“Our Capitol has been breached and I do not recognize what I see transpiring before us in our temple of democracy,” Phillips tweeted at 1:21 p.m. “Take heed, my fellow Americans, of our founders’ worst nightmare and the people enabling it.”
Less than 20 minutes later, he described the scene as “insane” when Legislators were told to take cover on the House floor and have their gas masks ready.
“We are all safe and sheltering,” Phillips tweeted at 4:07 p.m. “The Capitol is being secured and swept, and we’ll soon return to the House floor, complete our Constitutional duty, and then begin the arduous work of re-establishing the foundations of our republic. But we cannot do it alone. We need you, America.”
At around the same time the situation transitioned from tense to what was described as an attempted coup, Trump tweeted his displeasure at what was happening inside the Capitol, and doubled down on his unsubstantiated claims of the election being rigged against him.
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution, giving states a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify,” he tweeted. “USA demands the truth!”
The protests came as Republican lawmakers, in support of Trump, objected to the results of the election, citing widespread voter fraud in battleground states such as Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia. At least 60 legal challenges to the results brought forth by the Trump administration were struck down by courts throughout the country due to a lack of evidence. The U.S. Supreme Court — which includes three members appointed by Trump — unanimously refused to hear a case brought forth by the state of Texas and supported by more than 100 members of Congress, including Stauber.
“At this moment, with the breach of the U.S. Capitol and the betrayal of our democracy by the White House, we do not have a government that is functioning properly,” Minnesota Dist. 4 Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat, tweeted. “Our country is in grave danger — both internally and from our adversaries beyond our shores. Every American who values our democracy needs to stand up now for the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law.”
Rep. Jim Hagedorn from Minnesota’s 1st District, a Republican and staunch ally of President Trump, condemned the actions of those who invaded the Capitol Wednesday. He added that law and order must be maintained to preserve a civil society.
“Storming the U.S. Capitol is not acceptable, and I condemn in the strongest possible terms those who have breached the area and disrupted House and Senate deliberations,” Hagedorn tweeted. “As Americans, this is not how we settle debates and disagreements. It is a time for calm and order.”
Both chambers of Congress eventually reconvened on their respective floors at about 7 p.m. CST. After about two hours of speeches from both Democrats and Republicans alike, all of whom condemned the actions of earlier in the day and most of whom condemned the President for his role in inciting the crowd, votes were held to certify the results.
Stauber, also a faithful supporter of President Trump, released a statement Wednesday morning before the breach of the Capitol stating he would not back efforts to overturn the results of the election. Klobuchar and Sen. Tina Smith also voted to certify Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.
“I fiercely supported President Donald Trump during his bid for re-election,” Stauber said. “I stood with the President in Duluth, Bemidji, Mankato and the Twin Cities because, like me, he understands and fights for our way of life. I share many of my constituents’ disappointment with this election. I have serious concerns over election integrity and the significant, widespread abuses in our electoral system that have gone unchecked in many states and cities for decades.
“However, our Constitution permits only a limited role for Congress in the presidential election process.,” he continued. “The Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution asserts that the role of Congress is to count the electors submitted by the states, not to decide which electors the states should have sent.
“I am and always have been a firm believer in states’ rights and the Tenth Amendment,” Stauber said. “Overturning the results of the Electoral College would be an overstep of Congress’ limited role and would revoke power from where it should be derived — you, the people, and the states. Further, it would set a dangerous precedent, in which attacks on the Electoral College will be emboldened while efforts to eliminate it altogether are strengthened.”
While Stauber chastised Democrats for what he said were attempts to “diminish” the Electoral College’s role in presidential elections, he said he would not join in their “attempts to federalize elections.” He also thanked Trump for doing what he said was an incredible job for Minnesota’s 8th District, and added that he was proud to stand by him through earlier stages of the process.
“I consider this to be one of the most consequential votes I will take in Congress, and it is not a decision I make lightly,” he said. “Americans — no matter who they voted for — deserve to have confidence in their electoral system, and it is troubling that so many have lost faith in our election process. This, however, is not the time to give up on the beautiful promise of America. The Constitution has been a great road map for the wonderful experiment we call the United States of America, and I promise to always defend her.”